Linking Learning Outcomes and Topics across the Undergraduate Curriculum

Speakers: Karen E. Willcox, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Location: Boylston Hall, Fong Auditorium

This talk discusses two ongoing educational projects aimed at linking topics and outcomes across the undergraduate curriculum. First, the Crosslinks project maps how topics connect across courses. Topics are linked by way of prerequisite relationships, i.e., more advanced topics require earlier, more fundamental topics. In this way, a network of topics is formed, and the learning pathway for any topic is easily seen. The Crosslinks page for each topic comprises six components – Prepare, Learn, Apply, Relate, Advance and Visualize – corresponding to a facet of comprehension. These components provide different types of learning resources to help the student achieve different facets of understanding associated with the topic. Second, the Xoces project catalogs, structures and visualizes learning outcomes within a curriculum. Xoces has been applied to the aerospace engineering undergraduate curriculum at MIT and to the entire undergraduate curriculum at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. At MIT, more than 1100 outcomes were collected from more than 20 subjects in the department and from several prerequisite subjects outside the department (e.g., mathematics, physics, materials science). Finally, it will conclude with a brief description of the new Fly-by-Wire project, which is developing a blended-learning technology for teachers to provide scalable, differentiated instruction.

Karen E. Willcox

Karen E. Willcox is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also Co-Director of the MIT Center for Computational Engineering and formerly the Associate Head of the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering Degree from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and masters and PhD degrees from MIT. Before joining the faculty at MIT, she worked at Boeing Phantom Works with the Blended-Wing-Body aircraft design group. Her research at MIT has produced scalable methods for model reduction and new multifidelity formulations for design under uncertainty. These methods are widely applied in aircraft system design and environmental policy decision-making. In addition to her research pursuits, Willcox is active in education innovation. She is currently co-Chair of the MIT Online Education Policy Initiative and Chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Board. In 2013-2014, she served as co-Chair of the Institute wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education. She is a recognized innovator in the U.S. education landscape, where she is a 2015 recipient of the First in the World Department of Education grant.